Bowerbirds—Nature’s Interior Designers

Posted on by Ashley Fruno

Twigs for NestThere are countless displays and rituals to be seen in the natural behavior of animals around the world. But when it comes to a flair for design and attention to detail, the bowerbird has to be near the top of the list.

There are several species of bowerbird, and they differ in their exact choice of décor and architecture. But the males share a common trait—the ability to create a design masterpiece in a bid to win over the single ladies.

The male bowerbird goes to great lengths to ensure that he has a good chance of securing a mate. First, he builds an intricate stage of twigs, leaves, and moss. This is known as a “bower”—an elaborate structure that is intended for use not as a nest but as a seductive bachelor pad!

Next comes the interior design of his project. Each bowerbird chooses a different style for his “love nest” and will select items to decorate the bower in line with his chosen color scheme. You read that right: Each bird has his own color scheme.

If you are lucky enough to see a bower that is in development, you will find an array of items carefully selected to fit in with the bird’s chosen design. For example, if green is the color of choice, you may find treasures such as bottle tops, food wrappers, berries, green-colored glass, and leaves artfully arranged around the bower. Some bowerbirds have even been known to plant a “lawn” of moss as an extra feature.

These items may be collected from the forest floor, may be discarded rubbish, or may be stolen from other bowerbirds. And these males are not put off by carrying heavy or bulky objects such as spoons, coins, and even—on one documented occasion—a glass eye! Studies have found evidence to suggest that these clever birds even position their trinkets in careful order of declining size so that when they stand among the smaller items, they will appear bigger and stronger to a watching female.

Not content with this impressive creation, the female bowerbirds expect males to perform a song-and-dance number for them too. A male bowerbird will cavort and hop around his gathered treasures, often displaying a favorite sparkly item in his beak, while the female watches from inside the bower and makes her mating decision. Perhaps in the future, human males would do well to take a few tips on courtship from these determined and sophisticated birds!

Posted by Claire Fryer